Affordable Housing Trust Gets Boost From Community Preservation Group

By: Tim Wood

The cost of repairs to the town clock in the steeple of the First United Methodist Church increased by $10,000 due to an error in last year's community preservation application. FILE PHOTO


CHATHAM – Recognizing that more resources need to be put into securing affordable housing, the community preservation committee endorsed a $1 million contribution to the town's affordable housing trust fund, $200,000 more than town officials requested.

The committee recommended voters approve seven other requests for community preservation funds. Those requests, as well as a dozen other community preservation proposals postponed from last year, will go before voters at the May annual town meeting. Altogether, the measures seek $1,673,425 in Community Preservation Act money.

A decision on one request was postponed. Committee members decided to wait to see what position the select board takes on accepting the donation of the historic Stage Harbor Coast Guard boathouse before voting on an application for $225,000 to help cover the cost of transporting the structure from Quincy to Chatham (see related story).

For the past few years, the town's affordable housing trust fund has received an annual CPA contribution of $500,000. This year the group sought $800,000. It is considering the purchase of privately owned parcels to develop affordable housing (the trustees met Tuesday in executive session to discuss acquiring land for affordable/attainable housing) and the select board is slated to hold further discussions Feb. 16 on possibly using town property off Middle Road for that purpose.

The trust also established an emergency rental assistance program last year, dedicating $150,000 to help local families impacted by the pandemic.

After reading excerpts from a recent article about the rising cost of real estate, CPC member Ira Seldin proposed increasing the contribution to the trust fund to $1 million, “in view of the need for developing affordable housing to keep working families and fishing families in Chatham,” he said.

Chairman Michael Tompsett said he's been critical of the affordable housing trust fund in the past for sitting on money. “But things are changing,” he said, and there is more of an impetus now to move forward, as indicated by the examination of both private and public lands which he hoped would yield “multiple houses.” The committee unanimously approved $1 million for the trust fund.

“The housing trust fund better find some good projects to go out and use this money,” Tompsett said.

Three other housing-related funding requests were supported by the committee: a $90,000 contribution toward development of two single-family homes in West Chatham by Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod; $50,000 for a housing feasibility study; and $30,000 for a housing coordinator.

In the historic preservation category, the committee endorsed two funding requests: $41,225 for new roofs at the Atwood House Museum and $31,000 for analysis of items found during archaeological digs at the William Nickerson homestead site. The group rejected a request from the non-profit Protect Our Past organization for $32,694 to help produce three videos about preserving historic homes in town. Tompsett said the project did not qualify for CPA funding because it did not involve the acquisition, preservation or rehabilitation of historic resources.

Other requests received this year approved by the committee include $8,000 for design and permitting to replace artificial turf at the seventh and ninth tees at the town-owned Chatham Seaside Links Golf Course with natural grass tees and $25,000 to study the feasibility and cost of connecting the Old Colony Rail Trail on George Ryder Road to Route 28.

Among the projects postponed last year, two will have different price tags attached. New access stairs at Old Mill Boatyard, previously priced at $90,000, have been reduced to $45,000. The cost of repairs to the town clock will increase due to errors made in the application; the requested amount will go from $9,700 to $19,700.

Other CPC funding requests postponed from last year that will go before voters in May include $75,000 to study erosion at the Frost Fish Salt Marsh; $10,000 for a Revolutionary War memorial; $25,000 for an ADA-compliant dock at Pleasant Bay Community Boating; $22,500 to improve handicap access at several town beaches; $24,000 to upgrade Sears Park; $50,000 for improvements to Jackknife Beach; $2,400 for milestone markers along the bike trail; $86,000 to remove invasive species at Seaside Links; and $15,000 for administrative costs.